Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My most favoritest chicken sammich ever.

Oh hell yeah...

You see that? That's what a chicken sandwich should look like. Or a burger, for that matter. Pretty much any kind of sandwich. In fact, that's what a real sandwich does look like- messy; falling over; sesame seeds falling off; toppings spilling out. Not all perfect and cookie-cutter like the pics in chain restaurant menus and on tv. But whatever, we all know this already. So, let's talk about this sammich, shall we? I'm not sure who came up with it. But it's what we tend to eat at work most days. In fact, I eat it- on average- 4 days a week for lunch, and have been for at least the past year, and I'm not the least bit tired of it. Not even close. It's dead simple, too. So simple, in fact, that it doesn't even sound all that exciting or praise-worthy, or even worthy of a blog post. It almost sounds like an average chicken sandwich, albeit one with a little kick to it.

But it's not.

Ignore it at your peril. It's your loss if you do.

(check out that homemade bun action!)

But if you're interested, read on...

So like I said, I've been eating it an average of 4 days a week for lunch for at least the past year and am not the slightest bit bored with it. It's just so damn good. (Worth firing up the grill in the wintertime for, that's for sure!) And fairly quick and easy to make. All the ingredients are pretty much available anywhere. Homemade-bun-action is not necessary (I don't bother at work, but I've made them at home a couple times- I plan on doing a post on them here at some point). Ingredients are as follows-

Chicken breast
Lettuce, Tomato, Onion (LTO, as we say at work)
Nacho-sliced pickled jalapeños
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Hamburger bun (Duh, right? But I've used plain old white bread before- a 'decent' quality, of course- when I didn't have any buns, and I have plans to use hoagie buns next. Mostly because I need to use them before I have to toss them.)
American cheese

And that's it. Now, I know a lot of folks turn their nose up at the lowly American cheese. And I know that it's sort of 'ghetto' in the foodie world. But it really works on this sandwich. It really does. Don't believe me? Go on, then. Try it and see. You'll be surprised. (C'mon, one time won't hurt. You know you want to.) Oh, and full disclosure here, the cheese used on the sandwich in these particular photos was Muenster. Muenster is one of my favorites (you should totally try it on pizza instead of Mozzarella!) but in the case of this sandwich, I actually prefer the American, I must say. I just used Muenster because I had it, and didn't have any American. Muenster rocks the grilled cheese sandwich, but for this sandwich, trust me- use American. Ok, let's put it all together...

First things first, though. You should really marinate the chicken in some sort of marinade, or at least brine it to help keep it tender and juicy. As far as a marinade goes, I really like this one, even though it was originally meant for steak. I tried it once with steak and didn't think it lived up to its name, but then again, I'm not much of a red meat eater anymore. Most of the meat I eat nowadays is chicken, so I tried it on that and liked it very much. But if you don't want to bother with making that up, then a simple brine of sugar/salt water does wonders. I usually dissolve 4-6 T each of sugar and salt (kosher, of course) per gallon of water and allow the chicken to soak in that for about an hour. Now when it comes to cooking, the chicken is really best grilled. Grilled over an open flame, that is, be it gas or charcoal. But if you don't have a grill, or if it's wintertime where you live (as it is here) and you don't feel motivated to fire the thing up, I have cooked the chicken under the broiler in my oven, as well as on one of those indoor electric grills (though not the 'Foreman' type- a review is planned for the future). Both worked sufficiently well, though grilling over open flame is definitely preferred.

While the chicken is cooking, make up some delicious chipotle mayo (if you don't already have some. It keeps for quite awhile in the fridge, so can be made well in advance). Although there really is no specific 'recipe' for chipotle mayo- you basically just chop up the can of chipotles (or run through the food processor/blender) and mix with mayo until it tastes the way you want- the general ratio I use is one can of chipotles (~ 7 oz./200 grams) to 4 cups mayo. You can throw the whole mix in the food processor and mix it all that way, if you like, but I've found that mayo doesn't stand up to a blender very well. It tends to un-emulsify. Lately, I've just been using a knife to chop the peppers by hand, and mix them into the mayo with a wire whip.

Before I go any further, I just want to point out the obvious- not all brands of chipotle in adobo/jalapeño slices are created equal. Not by a long shot. At work, we use Casa Fiesta chipotles, and Pasado (or El Pasado, I can't remember which it is) jalapeños, both of which are excellent, but neither of which I've seen in stores around here. So these are my picks, based on what I've found around my area-

San Marcos jalapeños are excellent, as are La Costeña chipotles. However- and this to me is very weird- San Marcos chipotles are not so good (I'd use them if I couldn't find something else I liked) and La Costeña jalapeños are downright yucky. Totally mushy, no crunch at all. I took one bite and threw the can away. (I would not use them if I couldn't find something else I liked.) Other brands I've tried that suck are Mrs. Renfro's, and Bakers and Chefs (Sam's Club). No offense to either of those brands, I have no doubt they make other quality products, but their jalapeño slices are just plain yucky. If you're not sure, it's best to try different brands until you find something you like. Just buy the smallest size available, one or two brands at a time until you hit the jackpot. I like the San Marcos jalapeños so much that I went out and bought one of those #10 size cans of them (around 4 lbs./1.8 kg, I think).


Mmmmm.... homemade hamburger buns!

I'm trying out different recipes for homemade burger buns. This one was pretty good, but I've only tried it once or twice. I want to make it at least one more time, as well as try out some of the others I've found before posting a review about them.

There's really not much else to say here- melt the cheese on the chicken, spread a generous amount of chipotle mayo on the bun (preferably homemade) add the jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and onion, and prepare for a flavor explosion.

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